Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

New Paradigms in the Study of Middle Eastern Literatures

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

New Paradigms in the Study of Middle Eastern Literatures

Article excerpt

The "Middle East" remains a contested term: It is the remnant of a neo-imperialist designation of a space that was sometimes synonymous with the colonial "Near East" but distinct from the "Far East," and is oftentimes a coded way of referring to the perceived "Islamic world." The nations of this imagined region intermittently reject and embrace this terminology, but at the same time dwell in the complicated space formed by an awareness of their shared pasts and a residual nationalist rejection of being collectively categorized. The long-term consequence of the nationalist state's imperative to sever the historical connections between the national language and its neighboring tongues (including those languages that linger in local, tribal, and minority communities) and to expunge "borrowed" words has left a long wake in creative and scholarly work. While comparative work among the "classical" traditions of these literatures is undertaken without comment, scholarship on their modern traditions is caught between the exigencies of imperialism, nationalism, and academic parochialism. Nonetheless, these languages, cultures, and literatures continue to share much in the modern world, and this issue is devoted to the exploration of those persistent ties and affinities, and the attempt to discover new or enduring linkages between literatures, languages, and cultures in a world where they are largely forgotten or willfully ignored. …

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